Monaco GP FP1: Hamilton tops, Verstappen struggles

Monaco GP FP1: Hamilton tops, Verstappen struggles

Monaco GP FP1: Hamilton tops, Verstappen struggles

Lewis Hamilton topped the first practice session for the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix, ahead of Oscar Piastri and George Russell, as Max Verstappen struggled for pace.

The seven-time Formula 1 Champion was back to familiar territory, but the question remained whether the form he showed early on can be sustained for the rest of the weekend.

An interesting result for Hamilton, given the statement by his team boss Toto Wolff, who was watching trackside and played down Mercedes’ chances while speaking to F1 TV insisting their car doesn’t go well around Monaco and hoping for rain.

We have to keep in mind though that Ferrari and Red Bull did not have a proper run on the Softs like Mercedes, and speaking of Red Bull, Max Verstappen was yet again not happy with his RB20. He was 11th fastest.

Oscar Piastri had an encouraging start to his session, second fastest behind Hamilton, but he posted his fastest time before the Briton did, meaning there was less grip. There is more to come from McLaren definitely.

George Russell was third fastest in the session ahead of Lando Norris who was fourth in the other McLaren.

Charles Leclerc was fifth fastest in the Ferrari, his SF-24 requiring a checkup after the session after driving over debris from the Sauber of Zhou Guanyu who broke his front wing hitting the barriers out of Turn 1.

But Ferrari seem to be in a good place despite not showing all their pace.

While the session started in dry conditions, some slight drops of rain arrived towards the end, with FP2 expected to be a wet session.

Buildup towards FP1

Here we are at the Crown Jewel of the F1 calendar, Monaco, and there is so much to look forward to and look out for after the previous two races in Miami and Imola.

Red Bull have been made to work hard by McLaren who now enter their third race with their upgraded and rapid MCL38, which will also have a beautiful Senna-inspire livery this weekend.

Ferrari are on their second weekend with their upgraded SF-24, which was decently fast at Imola and should be faster in Monaco as the Scuderia now have a whole race weekend worth of data to try and refine the upgraded car.

Leclerc would love to win his home grand prix for a change, so will this be the weekend be the one?

So will Verstappen and Red Bull have a decent weekend? Monaco hasn’t really favored them in the last couple of seasons, yes the Dutchman won last year, but the slow nature of the circuit doesn’t make for an easy showing for the Milton Keynes squad and with the smaller margins this weekend, they may have their work cut out for them.

Without going into too many details, all the teams have circuit-specific upgrades this weekend with the high performance stuff bolted on the cars not to mention the special front suspension to deal with the tight turns of the principality.

As for the tyres, Pirelli has brought their softest range: C3 (Hard), C4 (Medium), and the C5 (Soft).

FP1 Session Highlights

The session started in dry conditions with some clouds, but track temperatures were high, at 42 degrees Celsius while the ambient temperature was 26 degrees.

The drivers were eager to hit the track and get running with Hamilton leading the queue of cars in the pitlane and waiting for the green light.

And soon, Piastri was informed that there was a chance of slight rain towards the end of the one-hour practice session.

All the drivers were on the Hard tyres except for Verstappen and Piastri who opted to start the session on the Medium tyres.

Hamilton, early on, locks up out of the tunnel and going down to the Nouvelle chicane and went straight onto the kerbs, while soon after, Nico Hulkenberg also has a huge lockup into Turn 1 (Sainte Devote) and goes to the run-off area.

15 minutes into the session, Alpine called Pierre Gasly into the pits informing him that they had a power unit issue that they needed to investigate.

On the other hand, replay showed Verstappen going to the limit early on brushing the walls… It’s not qualifying yet.

Valtteri Bottas brought out a brief Yellow flag going off track at Sainte Devote, but gets going again.

Gasly was sent back out on track but soon reported to power and was back into the pits as his mechanics start looking into his car.

Gasly was back out in the final minute of the session after Alpine fixed a turbo wastegate issue with his car power unit.

20 minutes into the session and the time started tumbling with a few drivers taking turn on the top spot, Leclerc, the Verstappen, then Norris, the Leclerc again…etc.

Replay showed Leclerc had a moment at the swimming pool, his front right brushing the barrier but the rear end of the Ferrari stepped out on him, but he kept it together.

Russell, in the Mercedes, is not happy about his tyres reporting they are “not biting at all”. That was his second complaint, the first being about the Hards, now about the Mediums.

Esteban Ocon reports the front of his car in bouncing mid corner, and then reports a similar issue to his teammate – no power. He soon pits.

However the Frenchman has a different problem to his teammate and soon rejoins the action.

Leclerc, on the other hand, has another close call with the barriers at Turn 11. However, halfway in the session, he was fastest.

Verstappen kept flirting with the barriers and soon reports: “The car is on a knife’s edge mate.”

Past the halfway mark, Piastri was the first driver to get out on the Soft tyres, and goes sixth fastest on his first attempt. Piastri goes fastest on the second attempt.

More drivers follow suit and start their Soft-tyre running and soon Russell goes fastest, over three tenths faster than Piastri. The Australian soon responds.

Carlos Sainz complains about Sergio Perez claiming he could’ve gotten out of his way a lot earlier but did not. That’s the traffic in Monaco!

With 15 minutes remaining, Zhou clobbered the barriers coming out of Turn 1, breaking his front wing really bad, and the session was Red flagged to give the marshals time to clear the debris, but not before a luckless Leclerc drives over the Sauber’s carbon fiber bits.

The session was restarted with ten minutes remaining on the clock but it has started to rain, the intensity increasing gradually, so the drivers rushed out to put in some meaningful running before it becomes too wet.

Five minutes from the end, Perez reported that he had a puncture in his right-rear tyre, and limped back to the pits. Verstappen on a fast lap goes straight at the swimming pool chicane.

Verstappen soon after that reported: “The car is so loose on the bumps, so any correction with engine braking or brake bias is just making it all worse.”

Another tough start for Verstappen and Red Bull for the third race in a row.

How they finished

Hamilton posted a 1:12.169 to go fastest in FP1, 0.029s faster than Piastri in second and 0.126s faster than his teammate Russell, who was third.

Norris was fourth fastest in the other McLaren, 0.227s off the pace and 0.001s ahead of Leclerc in fifth.

Fernando Alonso had a lowkey session and was sixth fastest at the end with a 1:12.775, 0.014s ahead of teammate Lance Stroll, seventh in the sister car.

Yuki Tsunoda’s strong form continued as he was eighth fastest in the VCARB, 0.706s from the top, while teammate Daniel Ricciardo was up there with him, ninth fastest and just 0.026s behind his teammate.

Sainz rounded off the top ten, with Verstappen 0.815s off the pace in 11th and Perez behind him in 12th.

Monaco GP FP1 Classification